Fewer than 500 landlords could green city rental, commercial space with energy retrofits

Fewer than 500 Vancouver landlords and building owners, enough to meet comfortably in the 668-seat Playhouse Theatre, could hold the key to greening a large share of the city’s buildings.

Energy retrofitting of existing buildings, which produce 55 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions, is a key element of the city’s greenhouse gas reduction plan. The city is committed to reducing these emissions to 33 percent of 2007 levels by 2020. A full 20 percent of this target, or about 160,000 tonnes of emissions, is to come from existing buildings, a big goal when you consider that the city includes 90,000 buildings.

But a report adopted by council on energy retrofitting yesterday suggests that fewer than 500 owners control a majority of the buildings in two key categories, and their organizations were consulted in the development of the strategy:

  • Large commercial buildings account for seven percent of emissions, but only 422 of the 5,200 commercial buildings account for 61 percent of the total commercial floor space. Action in those 422 would make a major dent in emissions.
  • Multi-unit residential buildings generate 18 percent of the emissions. But of those 5,700 properties, about 725 account for for 64 percent of the floor space. Most surprising is the ownership concentration in rental: 46 owners control 60 percent of the market rental units.

So get the rental owners together with the large commercial building owners and the city could make some important gains.

According to the report, a Green Landlord Pilot Program, conducted with Landlord BC and energy utilities, showed that relatively simple retrofits in 23 audited buildings could cut emissions by 16 percent and pay for themselves in 2.5 years. Twenty-one of 23 buildings surveyed have signed up for retrofits.